Syracuse celebrates its patron saint twice a year but, without a doubt, the most heartfelt and moving party is that of December 13, the day of the dies natalis. Discover it now with us.
The story of St. Lucy
Born in Syracuse towards the end of the third century, Lucia was betrothed to a wealthy pagan merchant, despite her professing Catholicism in secret to escape persecution. Fedele in Sant’Agata went to Catania to ask her to heal her sick mother but Sant’Agata told her that not only would her mother be cured but she would be sanctified.
This convinced her to refuse the marriage with great anger of the promised bridegroom who had her arrested and also tried to set her on fire. Not even the flames were able to burn it, so they decided to behead her and tear off his eyes, which is why Santa Lucia is still considered a protector of sight.
This happened on December 13th 394 and after the sanctification they built a church in his honor. However, Saint Lucia performed miracles well after her death, the most famous being the one that gave her the name “Santa Lucia Re Guagghie” (in Sicilian Dei Colombi).
In a period of severe famine in May 1646, a pigeon alighted on the top of the dome of the church of Santa Lucia announcing the arrival of ships loaded with wheat and ending famine.
The heart of the festival: the Basilica of St. Lucy
The basilica is also the heart of the feast in honor of Saint Lucia, on December 13th the dies natalis of the Saint takes place. It all starts 13 days before, on November 30 the band goes around the streets of Ortigia, on December 9 the silver statue of Saint Lucia. it is displayed in the chapel in the Cathedral and will stay there until December 12, when the translation will take place at the High Altar.
On December 13 begins the pilgrimage that crosses the city and brings the silver Simulacrum from the Cathedral to the Basilica of Saint Lucia at the Sepulcher. The moved people accompany the Patroness to the cry Sarausana jè! . (Siracusana è!) And it is not uncommon to find people barefoot in a symbol of devotion to the saint asking for miracles in return. It is the right time to enjoy the riches that the Basilica offers as the painting by Caravaggio and the catacombs.
Caravaggio in Syracuse left its mark with his work in the Basilica of Saint Lucia, the Burial of Saint Lucia is an oil on canvas created in 1608 after evasion from the prison of Malta. Caravaggio Saint Lucia retraces the scene in which the saint is buried after beheading by two gravediggers while the bishop assigns the last rites.
The Santa Lucia catacombs are located in the square of the same name and you enter from the external portico of the basilica, inside you can see the remains of the old church.
The procession of Saint Lucia in Syracuse is one of the most ancient and heartfelt Sicilian religious traditions and, together with the feast of Santa Rosalia in Palermo and Sant’Agata in Catania, is the one that attracts the greatest number of participants.
In the early afternoon, the silver statue of Saint Lucia, preserved in the cathedral of Syracuse, is taken over by the brotherhood of porters and left the church for the traditional procession through the city that will last until evening.
The statue is carried on the shoulder and in turn by a special brotherhood of bearers, called the “green caps” because of the green caps bring Santa Luciacolore of their hats. In ancient times it was the carpenters’ brotherhood but today this role is open to all and, for some years now, to women who have been given the task of carrying the relics of the Saint.
The square, at the time of the exit of the statue of the saint (about 15) is filled to capacity and the moment in which the silver statue crosses the door of the cathedral is accompanied by fireworks. Then, slowly, followed and preceded by an immense crowd of believers, the procession sets off on its traditional path in the direction of the Arethusa spring.
After passing Largo Aretusa, the procession of Santa Lucia heads towards the exit of the island of Ortigia, passing through the Porta Marina and crossing the Umbertino bridge to then turn into Corso Umberto.
In the middle of Corso Umberto the procession turns onto Viale Regina Margherita to reach the “Santa Lucia hamlet” which together with Ortigia represents the second historic district of Syracuse.
The procession of Saint Lucia reaches the square towards dinner time and then ends its journey towards the Basilica of Santa Lucia at the sepulcher. It will remain on display for a week, until December 20, the day of the eighth, when a new procession on a different path will lead the statue back to the cathedral where it will be kept for the rest of the year, in the chapel of the same name.
On December 13, throughout Sicily, we do not eat bread and pasta, but only legumes and vegetables, as a sign of penitence: this tradition has ancient origins dating back to the terrible famine that struck Sicily in the eighteenth century and that ended thanks to the miraculous intervention of the Holy martyr who sent a fleet of wheat-laden ships to the island.
Since then it is common for Sicilian families to eat the “cuccìa” seasoned with ricotta cream and with vin cotto.
In ancient times, devotion to Saint Lucia was shown, eating exclusively the cuccìa (which derives from the term cocciu, small thing, bean), which was distributed to family, friends and neighbors.
St. Lucy 2019 festival in Syracuse
Among the side initiatives is the traditional concert at the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia of the students of the Liceo musicale Gargallo; Wednesday 12 the kennel offered by the students of the Hoteleria in the courtyard of Palazzo del Senato, on Friday 14 December at the Shrine of Our Lady of Tears on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of will talk about the letter of St. John Paul II to the Bishops of Sicily with Archbishop Lorefice, Archbishop from Palermo and the journalist Paolo Borrometi. From Sunday 9 December guided tours of the votive shrines of Ortigia dedicated to Santa lucia and from 14 to 20 December the opening of the Catacomb of Saint Lucia with guided tours.
Do you want to live this fantastic experience?
There is no doubt, “the shortest day there is” you have to spend it in Syracuse and experience the air you breathe during this day. This is why we give you a discount coupon to use if you decide you want to find yourself on December 13th in Syracuse.